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  • Rory O'Keeffe

What's in a name? Greece and Macedonia

Greek national newspaper Kathimerini reports with outrage this morning that Radmila Sekerinska, the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Macedonia has called ‘Greek concerns’ about her state’s name are ‘laughable’.

There are a couple of things to note.

First, what she actually said was: ‘The next year is crucial. We need to show that there are developments – people do not expect everything to be solved tomorrow, but they expect progress because we have been stuck for 10 years.

‘No one in Macedonia has territorial pretensions, literally no one. It is laughable. The only time when we might occupy Greece is when we pour to the Greek beaches as tourists.’

It is of course to be desired that politicians choose their words carefully, but in the context of her statement, which talked about a desire for progress between Greece and Macedonia, and praised Greece as a holiday destination loved by Macedonian people, this was a clear attempt to reassure Greek people that they have nothing to fear – that Macedonia does not want to invade Greece and teal part of the country.

Kathimerini should be aware of this – in which case it is part of the problem. If it does not know it, then it really ought to consider its own role as a newspaper of record. This was, at best, an accidentally-mischievous report, and at worst a piece of rabble-rousing designed to prolong a largely pointless dispute between Greece and one of its neighbours.

And Kathimerini must know this. In Greece at present, almost no-one uses the term 'Macedonia' - or even 'FYROM' (because it too contains the word 'Macedonia') - and instead chooses to say 'Skopje', while Greece has actually vetoed Macedonia's entry to both the EU and NATO over the 'dispute'.

Equally, we might note that the entire stand-off – in which Greece, which has a population of 11m, is pretending to feel threatened by Macedonia, which has a population of two million, because the latter shares its name with a region of northern Greece, and has as a result vetoed Macedonia joining both the EU and NATO – is, in fact, laughable

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